A crooked street hides from the rest of the city. Shop signs sprout from the brickwork overhead and above that people chat through open windows. The buildings on each side arch toward each other like old giants bent double. I walk along this sheltered street and the cobbles feel anew as they take my gait. I push through a wooden door and stoop into a pub. The man behind the bar is pouring a drink with his shirtsleeves rolled up. He sends me a nod as I slide into the chair opposite Jean and ask her what we’re celebrating.
–You’re late, she says.
–I’ve been working all morning.
–Oh, please. Standing before a mirror practicing lines isn’t work, dear. Anyway, that stack of blank paper on my desk is a few sheets shorter this morning, that’s what we’re celebrating.
The barman sets a beer on the table. The droplets on the glass wet my fingers as I take a sip.
–You’ve written the start of your next novel then.
–I’ve written the end.
–Well, what happens?
–It closes with an actor sinking into a delirium. He becomes another. Forgets almost everything, he even walks differently. Then there’s his poor wife. He certainly closes the curtain on her. ‘Who is this beautiful fool hounding after me,’ he wonders. But she refuses to be defeated.
Jean’s face softens as it searches mine for a reaction. She slides her glass to one side and leans closer, trying to take my hand.
–Not this again, Jean.
–His wife shows him old photographs and letters too, but he tears them apart and cries forgery. She’s sure he’ll remember soon enough. Even summer doesn’t come all at once, rather day by day.
I leave her at the table, rush along the cobbles of the crooked street and step out from the arching giants into the midday heat. Mad fool of a woman . . .